Living in Society

A Suppressing Rain

Seedlings in the greenhouse.

It rained overnight, just as the man at the fertilizer place in Monticello predicted yesterday. We had a long conversation about rain, as rural folk often do. It’s something to talk about, something to which we can all relate. I asked him to load the two bags of fertilizer in the back seat so he wouldn’t notice my Biden for president bumper sticker that read “Build Back Better.” I went there for fertilizer and for weather talk, not for a political conversation.

The other kind of rain is figurative. It’s raining Republican legislation to suppress voters going forward. According to the Brennan Center for Justice, 47 states have filed more than 361 bills to restrict access to voting. Any state that signs such a bill into law will be sued, Democratic attorney Marc E. Elias said. Lawsuits are already pending in Iowa, Georgia, Montana and Florida. Republicans have determined they can’t win elections at the ballot box and are rigging the system to retain power anyway.

It was bad enough President Trump was impeached for fanning the flames of insurrection when the Congress was tallying electoral votes from the November election. Under normal circumstances, a president with as poor a record as Trump would be fading from view. Democrats gained control of both chambers of the legislature and the presidency on his watch. He is not fading. Republicans have a different agenda, though. It has to do with gaining and retaining power, no matter what. Any jamoke with autocratic tendencies will do, I suppose.

It’s not just me who thinks this. Wyoming Congresswoman Liz Cheney had this to say:

Trump is seeking to unravel… confidence in the result of elections and the rule of law. No other American president has ever done this. The Republican Party is at a turning point, and Republicans must decide whether we are going to choose truth and fidelity to the Constitution. History is watching. Our children are watching. We must be brave enough to defend the basic principles that underpin and protect our freedom and our democratic process.

Heather Cox Richardson, Letters from an American, May 5, 2021.

Cheney voted with Trump 93 percent of the time, so she is no liberal. Her punishment for making such statements and mounting a campaign for a return to law and order centered on the U.S. Constitution is expected to be removing her from her Republican leadership position in the House of Representatives. She’s in a minority of Republican colleagues regarding the future of the party.

The days after my retirement from outside work were supposed to be a time to take it easy. When it’s raining voter suppression, how could I? America is in dangerous times, with our Democracy at stake. Every person will be needed for the struggle against taking away the right to vote from so many.

I’d rather talk about the weather and our need for literal rain. That’s not the task that presents itself.

Living in Society

Nominate Meghann Foster

A special election for Johnson County Supervisor is the epitome of insider political baseball. Both Republicans and Democrats must call a special convention to nominate their candidate for the June 8, 2021 election. Democrats meet on May 11, Republicans May 8. Individuals can also get nominated by petition.

Our county is heavily Democratic so the likely winner of the special election will be the Democratic nominee. There are at least three candidates, although we won’t know the final number until we get to the convention where floor nominations have been popular and relatively frequent. Recently, a Democratic nominee lost the special election, so anything is possible.

I’m supporting Coralville City Councilor Meghann Foster as the Democratic nominee. She’s solid, and the best of the announced candidates. Learn more about her here and decide for yourself.

I am an alternate delegate and will work to get seated as a delegate. Since the convention is in person this time, all delegate slots are not expected to be filled. Like the caucuses, getting to a specific place at a specific time excludes people. That’s how it’s done, however. It’s insider-oriented, like it or not.

Living in Society

Zany Times in the Second Congressional District

Woman Writing Letter

When Jim Leach and Dave Loebsack were our congressmen we didn’t have to lookout for daily zany stuff from our congressional office. Now that Mariannette Miller-Meeks is in the Congress, we do.

Her latest caper was in the April 30 Iowa City Press-Citizen. She sported a mask with a “6” to let folks know she won the district by six votes. She also threw out alternative facts in the article:

“Miller-Meeks said she felt former President Donald Trump wasn’t receiving enough credit for the country’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, particularly Operation Warp Speed, which she said, “’miraculously gave us three safe and effective vaccines in just nine months.’”

As a physician, Miller-Meeks should know that creating a vaccine takes anywhere from 5-10 years. The scientific industry began testing a decade ago when SARS ravaged China. That is the reason we “miraculously” have three vaccines. Further, Pfizer did not join the Trump administration’s Operation Warp Speed.  The pharmaceutical company self-funded. (AP Fact Check, 3/13/20, “Trump wrongly takes full credit for vaccine”).

Saying Trump should be credited for getting three vaccines rolled out in nine months is disingenuous and wrong.  Her misinformation can confuse folks.

We need better from Congress.

~ Published in the Iowa City Press Citizen on May 5, 2021.

Living in Society

Low Information Consensus

Lilacs leafing out, April 15, 2021.

An administrative law judge ruled in favor of a bar and grill employee who quit and filed for unemployment because supervisors would not follow protocols for operating their business during the coronavirus pandemic.

She requested the workplace follow COVID-19 guidelines, they didn’t, and she quit and filed for unemployment, according to Clark Kaufmann at Iowa Capitol Dispatch. The judge ruled that a reasonable person would have believed that the working conditions were unsafe and detrimental. She was awarded unemployment compensation.

Owner Kevin Kruse’s quote in the article is telling:

“I think this whole COVID thing was blown out of proportion for no worse than what it was,” Kruse said. “To me, this virus was not scientifically identified and the media just ran off with it like they did. People that would have had it — it would have been no different than having a bad case of the flu. And that is the common consensus of everybody that has come into this place throughout this whole last year.”

Clark Kaufmann, Iowa Capitol Dispatch, April 13, 2021.

This bears repeating: “the common consensus of everybody that has come into this place throughout this whole last year.” While not an example of scientific methods, this is the way many Iowans make decisions. A majority that includes folks like Kruse elected Republicans in the 2020 general election.

There is a utopian impulse in American life in which groups seek to separate from broader society to survive and thrive on their own. It shows itself in the manifest destiny myth, in our outlook toward business startups, and in things as simple as setting up a home. We have a fundamental belief in systems and our role as chief actors in them. The example of Iowa’s remade landscape and the farms and businesses that now populate it offers no more perfect example of utopian creations. I don’t know Mr. Kruse but it sounds like his business was founded on such a utopian impulse, whether he recognizes it or not.

Utopian impulses are commonplace, yet utopian projects or communities, for the most part, have not been enduring. While people continue to make life decisions based on the “consensus of everybody that has come into this place,” the inherent denial of the rest of society will bring with it a reckoning. The insular nature of enclaves like a single business or social gathering, especially as it excludes tolerance of diverse beliefs and adaptations based on scientific inquiry, will reduce the longevity of such groups. In the meanwhile it can be hell to live where such views dominate, as the judge affirmed.

The freedoms of living in the United States include the freedom to be poorly informed about society writ large. To the degree I respect and tolerate low information consensus, I hope its hegemony will be suppressed. I trust society can and will shake off such views.

I also hope my trust is well placed. As English theologian Thomas Fuller noted, “the darkest hour is just before the dawn.”


Earth Day 2021

Woman Writing Letter

Earth Day is upon us. We should do something to note the occasion. Things like plant a tree or garden, or get together with neighbors to volunteer in our community come immediately to mind. I want to do those and more.

An individual can do a lot to improve the environment. We are past the point of relying solely on individual actions to address environmental problems.

The non-profit Conservation Coalition recently posted video of Congresswoman Mariannette Miller-Meeks. She said, “We don’t talk about very simple things that we can do that will allow us to both clean our environment, have a better environment, let people enjoy nature, but then also will be very productive and low cost going into the future.”

Individuals can do more. However, reducing acid rain, to which she referred in the video, was accomplished neither by an individual, nor was it low cost. Acid rain was addressed by George H.W. Bush signing the 1990 Clean Air Act.

We need more environmental accountability driven by the Congress, specifically by Chuck Grassley, Joni Ernst and Miller-Meeks. Focus on individual actions diverts our attention from what’s most important: the issues only government can address. We need focus on government action this Earth Day.

~ Published by the Cedar Rapids Gazette on April 13, 2021

Living in Society

Rita Hart Withdraws Election Contest

Rita Hart

Readers have commented about my posts on the super close race in Iowa’s Second Congressional District. Today, Rita Hart withdrew her contest of the election results. Here is her campaign press release.


March 31, 2021

Rita Hart Statement on IA-02 

WHEATLAND, Iowa — Today, Rita Hart released the following statement: 

“After many conversations with people I trust about the future of this contest, I have made the decision to withdraw my contest before the House Committee on Administration. Since Election Day, and throughout this entire process, my mission has been about ensuring the voices of Iowans who followed the law are not silenced. I am saddened that some Iowans’ votes will not count through no fault of their own. The work of ensuring it does not happen again will continue beyond this campaign. 

Despite our best efforts to have every vote counted, the reality is that the toxic campaign of political disinformation to attack this constitutional review of the closest congressional contest in 100 years has effectively silenced the voices of Iowans. It is a stain on our democracy that the truth has not prevailed and my hope for the future is a return to decency and civility. 

I wish Mariannette Miller-Meeks all the best as she serves the people of this great state as Congresswoman. This has been a difficult process for all of those involved and it’s incredibly important that we work together to reform the system so this does not happen again in the future. 

Running to represent the people of Iowa’s Second Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives has been one of the greatest honors of my life. I got in this race to listen to the people of the district and bring your voices of common sense and decency to Washington, D.C. We must work to end the partisan gridlock and deliver for the working people in Iowa who are struggling to make ends meet. 

To those who invested in this campaign — donating a few extra dollars they could spare or volunteering time — and to ALL of my supporters, my campaign team, and to my family, my children and grandchildren, and especially my husband Paul, thank you so much for your hope and passion. I could not have persevered on this journey without your tireless dedication and commitment.

I am a life-long Iowan and I will always work for a more prosperous future for our children and grandchildren. That won’t change regardless of this, or any, election. We have so much more to work for. I hope you all will stay involved and join me in working to make Iowa a better place for all.”

Living in Society

Whose Blood is Curdling?

Woman Writing Letter

I read with interest Bruce Gelder’s March 27 letter about the Miller-Meeks-Hart election. Couple of things:

The idea Rita Hart would “roll the dice,” like at a craps table at a casino, is laughable. As she repeated, the Iowa process allowed inadequate time for effective consideration. Pursuing a recount of Iowa’s Second District in the U.S. House of Representatives is legal.

The U.S. Constitution is clear. Article I, Section 5 says, “Each House shall be the judge of the elections, returns and qualifications of its own members.” The Federal Contested Election Act of 1969 identified a procedure for close races like this one. Scores of contested elections have been pursued in the House.

Hart’s appeal sets no precedents, as Gelder suggests. Any chaos being created is from a Republican noise machine expressing their perceived mistreatment. It’s like Democrats shouldn’t be given consideration because Republicans believe they won the election and that should be that.

The majority of election contests pursued by the House were dismissed. To gain consideration, the state must first certify results. The only “blood curdling” is occurring in Republican veins. They wish Democrats would just go away and not insist on our rights. That’s not likely.

Published in the March 31, 2021 edition of the Iowa City Press Citizen

Living in Society

My Politics Addiction

Lake Macbride, March 26, 2021.

Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo appeared at the Machine Shed Restaurant in Urbandale Friday morning, kicking off the 2024 Iowa Republican presidential nominating contest. He didn’t stop to speak to the press.

Republicans said they would hold a 2024 precinct caucus as usual regardless of whether Democrats do. A majority of Iowa Republicans favor Trump 2024 according to recent polls.

For his part, Joe Biden said he plans to run for a second term at his inaugural press conference last week.

Bloomberg reported U.S. cases of COVID-19 are rising again. It’s still bad in Iowa. Maybe it’s due to events like Urbandale where people gathered in public without social distancing or masks. The crowd looked pretty old and mostly male. Maybe they are all vaccinated, he laughed. News photos depicted what appears to be an aggregation of various daily coffee gatherings that occur around the state among retired and mostly male locals. Seeing Pompeo was something different to do, I suppose.

These days I have limited interest in politics. We are living in a time of Republican dominance in Iowa and I have no interest in watching the horror show. Yet I’m drawn to it… political stories in newspapers and on Twitter. One supposes I have an addiction. I don’t seem motivated enough to beat the addiction…yet. Likely, I’m in denial.

Part of my addiction is isolation resulting from the continuing coronavirus pandemic. In isolation, every human contact takes on increased importance. In normal times, it was easier to select which issues to work on and which to leave to others. Pandemic-caused isolation makes ridding myself of the addiction more complicated.

I intend to continue to vote, and will likely donate a few dollars to good candidates when I can. Anymore, political engagement is mostly determining whether a candidate is a Democrat. Advocacy has been co-opted by national players and the federal judiciary is in process of re-making the assumptions upon which my advocacy was once predicated.

Like anyone, I will try to help my local candidates. I can’t go cold turkey from politics. At the same time, I expect to get better focused on a handful of issues I deem most important. Readers of this blog know it’s the environment and its biggest threats: a warming plant, nuclear war and armed conflict.

There are many factors, physical, mental, emotional, and biological that make quitting politics difficult. It’s the rural Virginian in me that keeps me engaged. A low level dosage won’t cure me yet like the COVD-19 vaccine, it may inoculate me from the distractions that are possible. I should lean on my Polish ancestors who just came here, went to church, and made a life.

In any case, I’m addicted to politics and can’t let it dominate my life.

Living in Society

Politics Takes No Holiday

Curing Yukon Gold seed potatoes, 2021.

The election contest in Iowa’s Second Congressional District is expected to continue until July, according to Marc Elias, counsel for the Rita Hart campaign during a March 23 press conference. By then the term will be 25 percent finished, and today, it is unclear whether the votes to seat Hart in the U.S. House of Representatives will exist after the House Administration Committee finishes its work.

According to Elias, and this is not new, there are 22 legally cast, uncounted votes, Mariannette Miller-Meeks acknowledged publicly such votes exist, and there should be a fair process to count them. The Miller-Meeks position is the election has been certified by the State of Iowa, Hart skipped the Iowa court system in pursuit of an appeal, and that should be that.

Miller-Meeks is not voting the way she should on most issues. She did vote for the Violence Against Women Act, unlike other Republican members of Iowa’s congressional delegation. She has been against many other Democratic priorities, including HR-1, the For The People Act. Because she was seated in the Congress, she is free to vote how she will. That doesn’t mean we have to like it, and it sustains my interest in Hart’s election contest.

Hart’s appeal is not like Trump’s legal cases, at all. Hart’s position from election day has been that all legally cast votes should be counted. A key issue is that in no other contest arising from the 2020 election have Democratic attorneys denied Republicans (i.e. Trump) had a right to make a contest. Miller-Meeks first action was a petition for dismissal of Hart’s contest. Consideration of the petition was deferred by the committee chair and that led us to Monday’s filings and yesterday’s press briefing.

Incumbency is powerful, even for Miller-Meeks who began her term in January. Because of that, she gained a sense of authority that has been respected by her peers and by members of the news media. I keep reminding folks Miller-Meeks’ appointment was provisional. That, however, gets sanded off in the woodshed of daily political reporting.

Seven members of the media asked questions during the press conference. The nature of questions reflected the media narrative that has been and continues to be woven more than facts of the contest.

Nicholas Fandos of the New York Times asked about Hart’s decision to bypass the Iowa Court system to take the contest to a partisan U.S. House of Representatives. I’m losing track of how many times the Hart campaign has explained this, beginning in November 2020. Fandos also asked Elias if there was a conflict of interest issue because he represented some members of the House Administration Committee in other cases. I thought that was a pretty good question until I heard Elias’ answer: “It’s nonsense. I don’t represent the House Administration Committee. I represent Rita Hart. Everyone knows that. There is not some secret going on there. I’m handling this like any other case.”

Every member of news media who spoke had some narrative to support. While news media maintains an obvious bias, and we expect them to have a narrative to dumb down stories for readers and viewers, it’s unfortunate and tedious when we have to spend our time arguing with media rather than paying attention to the facts of a case.

We knew, based on history, that a contested federal election would take time to resolve. We also knew most of such cases brought to the Congress were dismissed. The problem for Second District Democrats is whoever is the candidate for the Congress in 2022 needs to be working this summer and the Hart-Miller-Meeks contest may not be resolved by then.

If Hart wins the contest and is seated in the Congress, incumbency will play a significant role in 2022. However, if the contest is dismissed, or if it is pursued and the whole House rejects it, we’ll be behind the eight ball. Pursuing this election contest puts Democrats in a difficult situation as we prepare for the 2022 campaigns.

I support Hart’s contest in the House Administration Committee with the opinion we should count all the votes and let chips fall where they may. In the meanwhile we have to hold Mariannette Miller-Meeks to account for her terrible voting record. That’s something we did before and will pursue going forward. I suspect Second District Democrats can multi-task as long as we know that’s what we are doing.

Living in Society

Count All the Votes

Rita Hart

Provisional Congresswoman Mariannette Miller-Meeks accused Rita Hart of choosing politics over the law in pursuit of an appeal to the certified results of the 2020 general election for Congress. That is ridiculous.

The law that covers the close race is the Federal Contested Election Act of 1969, and both candidates have been complying with it. It’s a given that this election contest is political. It’s about a close political election for Pete’s sake.

Rita Hart’s case hasn’t changed since she made the appeal: There are legally cast votes not counted. Count every vote.

The reason Miller-Meeks makes an accusation is to divert our attention from due process. She is justifiably concerned about losing her provisional seat if Rita Hart wins the appeal and replaces her in the Congress to represent Iowa’s Second Congressional District. If the U.S. House Administration Committee finds legally cast votes were not counted, as Hart did, and those votes show Hart won the election, she should be sworn into office. Just because there is hysterical Republican fear doesn’t mean the challenge should be withdrawn, or is somehow suspect.

The election was close. While the governor signed certification of the six-vote win for Miller-Meeks, there was no mandate from the electorate. She did not have a plurality. Now that Miller-Meeks’ call for dismissal of Hart’s appeal was rejected by the committee, the process should continue until its natural end. The next deadline is Monday, March 22, when briefs are due to the committee.

Senators Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst issued a joint statement in which they assert Hart’s appeal is not legitimate. Here it is, but it is snake oil. Don’t swallow it!

Both the original vote count and recount confirmed Mariannette Miller-Meeks won her election. There are legal avenues through which candidates can litigate election disputes if they believe there are specific election irregularities. Rita Hart declined to take legitimate legal action in Iowa courts and instead chose to appeal to Washington partisans who should have no say in who represents Iowans. That’s an insult to Iowa voters and our nonpartisan election process. We are confident in the fairness and accuracy of Iowa’s election system.

In addition to Iowa’s U.S. Senators, a cast of the usual characters has been speaking on Miller-Meeks’ behalf. Among those who made public statements are Paul Pate, Kim Reynolds, Randy Feenstra, Tom Cotton, and former United Nations ambassador Nikki Haley. Miller-Meeks took her case to FOX News chat hosts Bret Baier and Laura Ingraham recently. The Republican outrage is universal.

Miller-Meeks also made a well-publicized trip to the U.S. – Mexico border to decry a “crisis” there. Not so fast!

Miller-Meeks told Radio Iowa on Monday that people should be outraged. I’ll tell you who has no reason to be outraged by Rita Hart’s pursuit of an appeal, it’s the half of the electorate who voted for Hart.

The Republican noise machine has been refined in recent years to dissemble, distract and mislead citizens when they don’t like what they see in society. The fact remains Miller-Meeks’ election was certified by the Iowa Governor as winning by six votes. Even if the House Administration Committee finds Hart won and flips the election result, the main point here is the election was exceedingly close. Neither Hart nor Miller-Meeks should be doing much celebrating.

I’d like to see Hart seated in the Congress. I have also been around Iowa politics long enough to realize a close election can easily turn the electorate that produced it. It could go either way.

In Marc Elias, Rita Hart hired one of the best attorneys in the country to represent her during the appeal. Democrats who seek to put Hart in the Congress for more than the remainder of the current term should be focusing attention on the 2022 general election. I predict that election won’t be close.

Click here for a news update from the March 20, 2021 Iowa City Press Citizen.